A Dionysian affair in Virpazar
Each year, wine and fish are "joined" in a festivity called Days of Wine and Bleak. So far, 12 of these events have been held, always in the fall or during winter, when fish and wine abound.
The festivities are held in the picturesque town of Virpazar, once Montenegro's biggest market place, on the very banks of the lake. Festival goers feast and drink in reverence of nature and human labour.
Poets take turns reading poems venerating wine and the best "wine poems" receive awards. Wine-makers also compete for grades. In addition to them, the festival hosts fig, pomegranate and mandarin growers.
The whole event is a Dionysian affair with much wine-drinking and good and healthy cuisine, specific to the region of the lake and the surrounding mountains, the region of Crmnica, where a special kind of onion grows, unknown to the rest of Europe. Crmnica Vranac wine, fish, onions, honey, all local specialties, are pungent with the aroma of the river and nearby sea, mountains and gentle cascading hills and valleys, graced with over 400 springs.
Bleak is endemic to Lake Skadar. The Lake Skadar bleak is a small species of fish that lives no where else in the world. In the 13th century, the fish was exported to Italy. Today, approximately 800 tons of bleak are extracted from the
lake each year. At the start of the 20th century, fishermen in the village of Ceklin alone would produce about 500 tons of dried bleak. Today, the lake's bleak population has been depleted by fishing, although a bleak canning factory is still operative in Rijeka Črnojevića, the winter residence of Montenegro's formal royal rulers.